(LR) Head Coach Gregg Popovich, Kevin Love # 11, Draymond Green # 14, Damian Lillard # 6 and Kevin Durant # 7 of the 2021 United States Men’s National Basketball Team practice at the Mendenhall Center at UNLV on July 7, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller / Getty Images / AFP
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant said the United States basketball team contained Kobe Bryant’s DNA and would seek to honor the Los Angeles Lakers with their game at the Tokyo Olympics in this year.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, died last year at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash with his daughter and seven others, shocking the sports world and sending legions of grieving fans.
Durant, who was the team’s top scorer at the Rio 2016 Games and London 2012 Games, is leading a 12-member U.S. squad looking to win their 16th gold at the Olympics starting on July 23.
“Kobe Bryant is the guy we all admired and looked at like kids. Even when he was alive and playing, his DNA was ingrained in us as players. From afar he taught us what the game is about, what the work ethic is about, ”Durant told reporters.
“And we all kind of pulled away from him when he was playing and when he was alive. And now that he’s no longer with us, we all want to honor his teachings by going out there and playing with that passion, with that energy every time. “
On Thursday, organizers decided the Olympics would go without spectators, as a resurgent coronavirus forced Japan to declare a state of emergency in the capital which will run throughout the Games.
“I was definitely disappointed once I heard that, but I understand… we’ve already pushed games back a year, so we don’t want to cause more problems with COVID,” Durant said.
“… It’s going to be the part that stings a bit, but it’s always an honor and a pleasure to represent your country and to do it on a big stage.”
The US team will open the preliminary round on July 25 against France.
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